For first time buyers, finding shipping containers can sometimes be a bit tricky. Even if you know what you want, pricing can be hard to find early in the process. And, given how dispersed the market is with thousands of dealers, distributors, resellers, and other middle men in the process, you may not know how to get started. Below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know so you can purchase your containers and get started on your project!
Before you buy your shipping containers, you need to know exactly which containers you are looking to purchase. We won’t go into this in much detail in this post because we have already covered it in How to Purchase Your Shipping Containers and Shipping Container Dimensions.
First, decide whether you are going to buy either new, one trip, or used containers. New containers and one trip containers are very similar since the one trip containers have only been used to ship a single cargo load.
When purchasing your containers, we recommend that you try to purchase them all from the same manufacturer. Each manufacturer has slight variations in dimensions which could make working with different brand containers difficult.
Most business-to-consumer purchases (and even consumer-to-consumer purchases) are moving to the online realm. Whether you actually complete your transaction online or just locate the company online, the internet is likely to play an important part in your search. Therefore, we’ll focus our efforts on online sources, though there are limited opportunities to find a container for sale offline that we’ll mention at the end of the article.
Starting your search online enables you to have access to a wider variety of inventory than you would normally find with a local company, and you don’t even have to leave your house. However, depending on where you purchase your container from, you may give up the ability to conduct a pre-purchase inspection, so you need to find a company you can trust and that rates the conditions of their containers with integrity.
A large portion of our readers are located in the United States, and despite shipping containers being a global commodity, they are easier to source in the United States. Therefore, we’ve broken up our discussion into US-based choices and those in the rest of the world. Read on to find out more!
If you’re located in the United States, our recommendation is simple: Visit BoxHub
BoxHub lets you search for container inventory nationwide, get live pricing, and complete your purchase online. They even provide a money back guarantee if you aren’t happy with your container purchase. Their team works directly with the major shipping lines and container companies and helps those big players bypass the layers of middlemen and sell directly to individuals. Through economies of scale, BoxHub is able to deliver lower pricing than most other alternatives, and their website is completely open about their prices, unlike other container sellers that sometimes want you to call or fill out a form before you get any pricing information. BoxHub will also help you coordinate delivery with roll-off/tilt-bed trailers at cost. We think you’ll agree that it’s a great platform.Visit BoxHub Now!
In the age of Amazon and other sophisticated online sellers, it’s starting to make less and less sense to buy containers with antiquated systems when a modern alternative like this exists. Note: Discover Containers has a partnership with BoxHub and receives a small bonus when you complete a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
If you live in the United States and for some reason aren’t able to find what you’re looking for with BoxHub, there are a number of companies a bit higher up the food chain than your local dealer and who have regional relationships and networks. You should be able to find some of these online and they may be able to help you search a wider area and find the right container for you, although you may give up some ease of use and getting the lowest price.
Google searches like this are usually fruitful:
"shipping container" + Miami
Just use your city or town in place of Miami. Trying terms like “buy shipping container” or “shipping container dealer” along with the city may provide additional results. You can also try the name of nearest large city if you’re in a more rural area.
Craigslist is another good way to find local dealers in addition to regular people and businesses who own containers and no longer need them. If you’re purchasing from a company or individual that isn’t a container dealer, you’ll need to go visit the container in person to determine its condition. You’ll also probably have to arrange the logistics of pickup and delivery of the container separately.
If you are based outside the US, there are still plenty of ways to track down a shipping container near you. As far as we know, basically every country in the world has at least one intermodal port or container terminal that handles land transport. While seaports will probably have the most container options, if you’re far from the coast or in a land-locked country, these land ports are still good options.
To find ports, the Sea Rate website is an amazing tool. You can search by country and see hundreds and hundreds of ports, with contact information for each along with a ton of detailed information about the size and capacity of the port. From there, try reaching out to the port to ask about companies that work with the port and sell excess containers.
Countries with larger ports will have container dealers just like the US, and the same technique for Google searching mentioned above can also work internationally.
Craigslist works in some international countries, so that technique may be effective as well. Gumtree is a similar alternative that is popular in many Commonwealth countries like the UK, South Africa, Australia, and others. Additionally, many countries have similar online classified ads sites that cater specifically to residents of that country or region. So, seek out these websites and see what containers are available. The recommendations and cautions we shared above for Craiglist in the United States still apply here.
With all of these resources, we recommend having as broad a search as possible. If you end up with too many results, you can start to narrow things down by specifying a more detailed description of the location, size or condition of the containers you need.
If you’re looking for new, one-trip containers, you probably already know that the overwhelming majority of them are made in Asia, and most of those are from China. Sites like Alibaba enable you to get in touch with Chinese manufacturers to purchase these containers directly. The purchase won’t be as simple as purchasing a container from your own country, as you’ll have to coordinate the transportation, any inspections and customs paperwork, etc.
There are actually a lot of containers just sitting around behind businesses that are forgotten about. They may be empty or full of long-forgotten materials, and getting rid of them usually isn’t a high priority activity for overworked individuals. However, if you notice one and approach the owner, they very well might be excited about the prospect of getting some money AND cleaning up their storage yard. So keep your eyes open when you’re driving around and if you notice some neglected containers, you may be able to make a deal!
You can also look for personal referrals from people you know or meet that work in the shipping, transportation, and logistics industry. They may know other dealers or just companies that use containers in their business and likely have excess. If one dealer can’t help you, ask if they know any of their nearby peers that might have what you need.
If you have any other tips or tricks for locating shipping containers, let us know.
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